October 22, 2019

The Broken Wrist Effect

I'm typing this slowly, with only my right hand, as my left is in a splint furnished by my neighborhood's Urgent Care Clinic. Where I was treated so nicely and quickly, I almost wish they could serve as my primary physician. That office is a 45-minute highway-from-hell drive away, where appointments, no matter the reason, must be scheduled months in advance.

Nevertheless, per inane insurance protocol, I had to call and beg my primary doctor's office to pony up a specialist referral for my broken wrist. (Apparently the word of the “lowly” clinic wasn't good enough despite the fact that it was their doctor who had actually taken care of me and advised I visit an orthopedic specialist post-haste when their instant, on-site x-ray revealed a bone fracture.)

At least my primary's office did get the referral over in time and my home fax machine cooperated for once in spitting out a readable print copy. I also managed to make an appointment for the very next day with one of the three specialists the clinic had recommended that was close enough to drive one-handed to. (The other two were duds: one not accepting my latest HealthCare.gov plan; the other, a disconnected number of a doctor who'd likely skipped town for greener pastures.)

So despite the fact that I'm still waiting for my never-on-time and often day-late pharmacy delivery of prescription-grade Advil for my hand's increasing pain and swelling, I feel like I've just hit the jackpot in finding healthcare in Florida.

Small blessings, right? And despite my new appreciation for the two-handed lifestyle, a major disruption to my ongoing exercise regime, and some other plans, I'm actually, incongruously, feeling better than I have felt for some time. Not because I was hurt, of course, but because I'd finally dared to accept a challenge and do something different.

What is it about life that just when you seem to have achieved a sort of equilibrium with your circumstances – a content way of coasting along – suddenly everything makes you bored? In my case, even mildly depressed. I'm only talking about being down for a day or two – but I'm basically a cheerful person. I wasn't feeling like myself.

So when the opportunity presented itself to join some new friends at an ice rink, I jumped, immediately rescheduling my Sunday matinee play review (yes, even watching live theater can turn into a chore if required often enough). I used to go ice-skating fairly regularly as a kid … and later while accompanying my kid. (I think I had her in group-lessons far longer than necessary just to allow for mom's free skate time.) And I still went skating several times by myself once she'd grown up. But then it got lonely and I stopped.  Although figure skating is basically a solitary sport, it's still fun to partner with fellow skaters on the rink for a bit of a chat and have company during breaks over hot cocoa.

Only recently, I'd found myself lamenting how it had been years since I'd last been on the ice, yet no one I knew was willing to join me. Until now. Digging deep into the hall closet, I found my old ice skates – sharpened and ready in a sport tote still packed with tissues, gloves, even a sweatshirt (so that's where my purple pullover had disappeared to!). I tried them on and they fit perfectly, even better than before, as this eBay purchase had always felt a bit too large. But apparently my feet had inflated over the years and now I no longer needed to double up on the socks.

The indoor ice rink was better too – spruced up, freshly painted, and apparently all those negative Yelp reviews had finally gotten management to install new toilets and locks. Happily, their famous hot chocolate was still only two dollars, and as yummy as ever. After a few tentative glides, and one slow round spent hugging the wall, I was off and flying on the ice, almost as before. I didn't even mind skating to more updated music, most of which I recognized, as they stuck to the more melodic popular tunes.

So what if, other than my new friends, I was the only person older than 10 on the ice? Being a Sunday afternoon, it was also prime kids'-birthday-party time, and at least half a dozen small party rooms adjacent to the rink were packed with young revelers. Parties of kids were also gathered, intermittently, for short group lessons in the rink's corners. But this hardly interfered with more experienced skaters' circular path and it was a joy to observe their bright-eyed enthusiasm.

And it was catchy! When a giant yellow chicken (pro skater in Big Bird-like costume) zoomed to center rink and partygoers were invited to join him in the “Chicken Dance” (whose music now boomed from the loudspeakers), I abandoned the stream of “professionals” enjoying their cleared ice time to dance with the kids.

Just two weeks ago, my JCC's belly-dance teacher had added this dance to her new, more international-flavored repertoire. Despite the fact that her name is Shayna (and a real Jewish mother-type beloved by all for her beautiful personality), some members may have complained about the non-stop Arabic music emanating from her class. So lately, we're just as likely to be found shaking tambourines as hips, and dancing a mean hora to a klezmer band's wedding mix. In short, to impress Shayna, my beloved dance teacher, I simply had to try the “Chicken Dance” on ice and report back to the class.

I was alone among my new skating friends in this attempt. But they did laughingly point out the next costumed character to emerge, an adorable, giant white snowman followed by streams of joyous kids. Every so often he'd stop, turn around and dance with a child to the tune of – what else? – “Let It Snow!”

And then came the ultimate magical surprise! Icy snowflakes were released from on high – landing on the ice, and delighted faces, tongues and outstretched arms of skaters below. This never happened back in my skating days, and even adults were grinning like youngsters. You can't imagine the delight felt by Florida kids who'd never even seen snow, to be suddenly struck by gentle frosty showers while outside temperatures hovered around 90 degrees.

I spent a full hour on the ice, mindfully alert to my every move, breathing deeply, increasingly “in the flow.” And then it was almost 3 p.m., when we'd need to clear the ice for 15 minutes while the Zamboni machine slicked up the surface. I saw a young couple (from my group) by an exit door. We chatted. Then I decided to beat the crowds on my cocoa order and head out to the snack stand. I'd barely moved when the toe pick of my right skate caught on the ice, tripped me over and I went crashing down onto my left wrist. Too late, I remembered how these particular figure skates came with rather prominent, jagged-edged tips in front. But to be honest, I think I simply forgot – after a few minutes of just standing and talking – that I was still on ice and needed to be careful.

In all my years of ice-skating, rollerblading, bike riding … and simply being a kid (back in the days when we were encouraged to climb trees and hang from monkey bars set in cement), I'd never broken a single bone. I even recall being jealous of classmates and their center-of-attention signing casts. If this fracture marks the end of my unscathed run, I'm glad it happened WHEN it did – after I'd already experienced all that skating fun. I'm even glad it happened WHERE it did – on my left and not my right wrist, because I'm right-handed. Other than my broken wrist, I suffered not so much as a single bruise (not counting my bruised ego). At my age, it could have been a lot worse, even, God forbid, a broken hip.

So all in all, I think I came out rather well after this minor spill. (I'm still to visit the orthopedic surgeon, but have been assured there are no loose bone fragments and, though my fingers are swollen, they haven't turned numb or blue.) So I feel justified in being optimistic, not just about my health, but also, once again about my life. If anything, this small break has sent me a message that the time has come to break out some more. Being restricted from my daily routine will allow me to see it with fresh eyes – both the good and worthwhile along with, perhaps, some “rut-infested” activities that have become unnecessary energy sappers. If breaking a bone leads to the breaking of bad habits, it's actually worth the cost. Now excuse me while I go lie on the couch and “clean up” my DVR's list of old movies … whilst icing my wrist. My new habit of enforced leisure ain't half bad.

© 2015 Mindy Leaf

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